A large format by Gaston Bussière acquired by Cherbourg

Gaston Bussière (1862-1928)
The Revelation, Brünnhilde discovering
and Siegmund

Oil on canvas - 236 x 304 cm
Cherbourg, Musée Thomas-Henry
Photo : Sotheby’s Paris

27/8/08 — Acquisition — Cherbourg, Musée Thomas-Henry — Along with a sculpture by Gérôme (see news item of 5/7/08) and a study by Oudry (see news item of 27/8/08), a third work was preempted by a French museum at the Sotheby’s auction in Paris on 25 June 2008.
This was a large canvas by Gaston Bussière, taken from Richard Wagner’s The Valkyrie representing the moment when Brünnhilde, sent by Wotan to punish Siegmund and Sieglinde, refuses to obey his father (ill.). The Musée Thomas-Henry de Cherbourg acquired it for 48,000 € (without charges).
The Parisian premiere of The Valkyrie took place on 12 May 1893 and it is likely that the artist attended the performance. In fact, he painted three other canvases inspired by the same theme, including Wotan’s Farewell to his Daughter held at the Hôtel Dieu in Mâcon [1].

A student of Alexandre Cabanel, Bussière often produced this type of work which combines the Symbolist approach, the art of the English pre-Raphaelites and that of historical painting by artists such as Jean-Paul Laurens. He interprets the latter’s universe (the figure of Siegmund for instance, seems to come directly from a Laurens painting) in aphantasmagorical style, with flickering colours and affected forms which also evoke Jean Delville. The backgrounds in his landscapes (the case for the one acquired here by Cherbourg) recalls Puvis de Chavanne (with whom he worked) or Alphonse Osbert.
The artist’s style evolved later in a manner that can only be qualified as being more and more “kitsch” arriving in the 1920’s at a point which even the most ardent supporters of art history find hard to defend. Nonetheless, his early works should not be forgotten, among them very fine examples such as the beautiful Death of Roland (Mâcon, Musée des Ursulines). Let us point out that Mâcon where his father, Victor Bussière, painter and decorator, settled in 1862 when Gaston was five years old, is preparing two exhibitions devoted to this family of artists the first of which, Les Bussière, peintres et décorateurs (), will open 18 October 2008 and run through 1st February 2009.

Version française

Didier Rykner, mercredi 27 août 2008


[1] In an article about the catalogue for the exhibition Richard Wagner, Visions d’Artistes published on La Tribune de l’Art (in French), Dominique Lobstein regretted that Bussière’s paintings were not included. An attempt to list this artist’s Wagnerian canvases appears in the catalogue for the exhibition Wagner and France, Bibliothèque Nationale / Théâtre National de l’Opéra de Paris, 1983, p. 125-127.

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